Category: Art

Wellness Wednesday: Paint it Out

“Out of the Vastness…”

Art Journal Intuitive Painting Mountain Creative Arts

“The human spirit is not a worm of the dust. It is the Masterpiece of the Infinite. It is builded for citizenship in the Universe forever…Out of the Vastness into the Everywhere.” -Author Unknown

Last Saturday, I woke up with little voice nudging me at 5am: “You need to paint,” it whispered. So, I begrudgingly got out of bed–much earlier than I prefer on Saturday morning–filled up my water jars, and began to paint.

I didn’t have a plan in mind. I knew I wanted to tear into some paper, and I knew it would be easier to get started if I had a black background. The rest…just evolved. It began with a layer of torn tissue paper and followed with several layers of blue, green, and purple paints. I switched between this cool palette and warmer tones of red and orange–all in between layers of stenciling and writing. I then highlighted the forms which had emerged with white and black Stabilo pencils. Finally, I randomly selected a sheet of text from an old book and cut out a phase that caught my eye: “… Out of the Vastness into the Everywhere…”

I’d be lying if I said the national and world events of the past two weeks weren’t on my mind before I started painting. Maybe a reminder needed to come through that no matter who we are, where we come from, and how we choose to identify ourselves, we’re really all made of the same stardust and we are all connected, standing side by side next to our ancestors as they support us in carrying out our higher purpose.

This style of painting is so freeing and forgiving. I can let whatever is bottled inside, out onto the page. I choose to keep an art journal of these paintings, so I can reference them later and review my journey–like a typical written journal. Sometimes, however, I paint on single sheets of paper that can be destroyed or transformed through collage. Whatever I choose to paint and whatever I choose to do with the completed painting, it is all done with acceptance of whatever images appear, and without judgement about how “good” it is.

Art Journal Intuitive Painting Mountain Creative Arts

check out the time-lapse video

If you’re interested in experiencing this technique for yourself, join us for the new “Paint it Out” workshops on Monday evenings or Wednesday afternoons. I’ll be teaching some basic principles of intuitive painting, and guiding you as you paint with colors, lines, and shapes. This is open to individuals 16 and older, and, as always, no art experience is needed and all supplies are included in the cost.  More information here.

Kara Ashley-Gilmore is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate, Art Therapist, and mixed-media artist at Mountain Creative Arts Counseling. She provides counseling to adolescents and adults who feel crushed by the weight of their anxieties, and want to live more present lives. She often incorporates the creative process into therapy sessions with clients, helping them access their creativity, and use it for their own growth and healing.

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3 Anxiety-Reducing Art Exercises


Did you know that 18% of adults in the US are affected by an anxiety disorder?

Whether you have been formally diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, or simply identify with some of the symptoms, as humans, we all have moments where we feel anxious, nervous, overwhelmed, and stressed. Anxiety disrupts your life and can leave you feeling ungrounded. My intention with this post is to provide a brief list of short art directives you can do at home to lower your stress level and reduce your anxiety, so you can return to the demands of your life, feeling a little more clear-headed and present.

These examples are done in black and white media, so the focus is on the task, rather than on choosing colors to make a pretty picture. To step things up a notch, you could play some soft background music, light a candle, and/or dab some lavender aromatherapy oil on your temples.

1. The Dot Method

The Dot Method Example

Jessica Jane Lynch, an art therapist in Southern California developed The Dot Method following research for her Master’s Thesis. She found that repetitive dot-making decreased anxiety and promoted a relaxation response in her clients by lowering their heart rates, lowering their blood pressure, and stabilizing their breathing.


Time: 10 Minutes


Art Experience Needed: Ability to hold and move a pencil

The Dot Method Example #2



The eraser end of a #2 pencil

A black stamp pad

A blank sheet of paper


Directions: Check in with yourself. On a scale of when to ten (with ten being the highest), how stressed or anxious are you feeling in this moment?

Set a timer for 10 minutes. During this time, create an artwork using the eraser end of your pencil to make dots on your paper, whichever way you choose.

At the end of the ten minutes, check in with yourself again. Has your number decreased? Did the pace or pressure at which you applied your dots affect how relaxed you felt during the activity? If you enjoyed this activity, make note of what worked and what didn’t for future reference.


2. Concentric Circle Drawings

Mandalas (circular drawings) are well-known to promote relaxation and healing, and have been used a form of mediation for centuries. The circle, in and of itself, is a powerful symbol of wholeness, connection, continuity, cycles and unity. Within a circle, there is no beginning and no ending. Drawing concentric circles, or circles within circles, is another way to lower your anxiety levels, in a similar fashion to creating a mandala.

Time: 10-20 Minutes

Art Experience Needed: Ability to hold and move a pencil, and the ability to draw a circle.


A black sharpie marker (a ballpoint or gel pen or a pencil will also work)

A blank sheet of paper

Directions: Set a timer for at least ten minutes. Using a sharpie or other writing tool, draw a small circle on your paper. Draw a circle around that circle. Draw another circle around those two circles. Continue until you run out of space. Choose another place on your paper and repeat. Don’t stop until you run out of time.

Concentric Circle Drawings

As you can see, your circles don’t have to be perfect. Keep going.

Your circles can be as big or as small as you would like. They can overlap, or be in their own space. Your art does not have to look like my art. There is no wrong or right way to make your art, just draw circles within other circles until your time is up. Notice how you feel before and after the exercise–and remember to breathe!

3. Continuous Line Drawings

Drawing is not something that is typically regarded as relaxing, especially if you are just getting the hang of this art stuff. But what if you could draw without every really making anything, where the purpose is just to make a mark on the page?

A continuous line drawing is drawing without lifting your pen. In this exercise, we do not have an end goal–or final picture– in mind.

Time: 10 Minutes

Art Experience Needed: Ability to hold and move a pencil


A writing tool (a ballpoint or gel pen or a pencil)

A blank sheet of paper

Directions: Take a deep breath. Set your timer for ten minutes. Place your pen on the paper and draw. Do not stop or lift up your pen until your timer goes off. It’s okay if what you have on your page is nothing more than a scribble. How do you feel? Take deep breath before resuming your day.

Here’s a 2 minute video to demonstrate the process.

I hope you find these techniques helpful. I’m interested in hearing about your experiences–what worked, what didn’t, any alterations you made to the directions, etc. Send me an email, if you would like to share:

Wellness Wednesday: Trust Your Own Pace

Trust Your Own Pace


A common theme over the past few weeks, both within my clients’ lives and in my life, is allowing ourselves to trust that we are moving at the speed that’s best for our own well-being. I have found that when we start to make self-care and emotional and spiritual growth a priority, the hustle and bustle of our usual pace falls away. We transform our impossible-to-complete to-do-lists into manageable action items that we can actually complete within a reasonable time-frame. Yet, it feels odd to live at a slower pace than usual, at a slower pace than those around us. However, I believe that if we are able to sit with that discomfort, we will be better able to manage our anxieties and cope with the demands and responsibilities of our lives.

“To be like Turtle is to be not only better paced for longevity, but well-protected for the challenges sure to come.” -Pixie Lighthorse

Every morning, I declare to myself that, “there’s not enough time” is not valid today. There is time for self-care. There is time to partake in the things that bring me joy and peace, the things that feed my soul. I want to remember that there is plenty of time for everything, and everything happens in its own time. I need to remember to “trust the pace by which I move;” to be more like Turtle.

I created this art journal spread to help me remember. I find that when I make art and write about a goal, it becomes ingrained in my psyche, and I’m more likely to follow through with it. Here’s a short time-lapse video of the process. To see the beginnings of this art journal spread, click here.

 This post was inspired by the art of Mandy Steward. You can follow her here and here.

My Social Media Round-Up


I’m pretty active on my favorite social media sites. I use Facebook to share interesting articles I find about art, art therapy, creativity, and wellness; and I share pictures of my creative process on Instagram. Here are some of my favorite posts over the last month.

On Facebook…

  1. Learn the bad habit that prevents you from achieving your goals
  2. 5 ways to change your “too busy” mindset
  3. Seek Joy
  4. Loneliness is a liar
  5. Meet an amazing five year old artist with Autism
  6. How art plays a role in the mind-body connection
  7. A scientific explanation for the adult coloring trend

Over On Instagram…

I shared some pictures from my vision board workshop on the 16th.

Preparing the space and eagerly awaiting my students' arrival

Preparing the space and eagerly awaiting my students’ arrival


First layers


Vision Board Detail


Completed Vision Board

And I shared the beginnings of a new painting.

So many layers...

So many layers…

That’s it for this month! Check back here next month for another update, or join me over on FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest for daily articles, photos, thoughts, and inspiration.

Wellness Wednesday: Vision Boards

How I Use My Vision Board

Vision Board.jpeg

About six years ago, soon after the birth of my child, I found myself sort of drifting along, without a sense of direction about what I wanted to come after this huge life transition. I saw myself at the edge of a ravine. I knew I could make it to the other side when the time was right; I just had no clue what I even hoped would be there waiting for me. All I knew for sure, was that in that moment, I was dissatisfied and ready for change, but I did not know what exactly that would look like.

Around this time, I had the opportunity to convert a spare bedroom into a studio space. There was a blank wall that was visible as soon as I entered the room. I knew I wanted to create something that could inspire me and evolve as I evolved.blank_vision_board.jpg

I was inspired by the “walls of crazy” in many conspiracy/action films. (You know, the ones where there’s a slightly obsessed character who has a wall of their basement covered with newspaper articles, maps, and photographs, with red string connecting related images?)


A mini vision board on my vision board


I can do hard things. And so can you

I started with a large piece of brown craft paper. I painted it white and nailed it to the wall. I glued down quotes, poems, paragraphs from some of my favorite books, and images that represented the emotions I wanted to feel in my life. Then I covered everything with color and texture by adding paint and layers of colored tissue papers. Once everything was dry, I crossed wire across the front to allow space to hang images and phrases that I collected from magazines.

The items on the board change over time, and I add to it constantly. I created a section for aspirations related to improving my overall well-being, a section for my career, and a section for home and family. I like the use of wire because as these dreams and desires are manifested, I can remove them and add something new.

vision_board_mountain_creative_arts_counseling.jpegThe power of my vision board is that I see it every. single. day. I read the little post-its, and look at the pictures. It reminds me of who I want to be, how I want to feel, and what I hope to accomplish. Every. Day. As a result, these things are in the background of my thoughts throughout each day, and they influence my actions and the content of my goals.

I encourage you to try it. All you need is paper, tape or glue, and a few magazines. Choose images without judgement. Whatever speaks to you is what you need. The rest is up to you.

For those that would like a little more guidance, I’ll be hosting a Vision Board workshop this Saturday, from 11 to 4. Visit my workshop page for more information.

Decorate your Own Soul


My mom gave me the poem, “Comes the Dawn” when I was really young. This line always stood out to me:

“…So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to buy you flowers.”

To everyone out there starting over, know that you can really endure, that you really are strong. And you really do have worth.

Comes the Dawn
Author Unknown

After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul.
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning and company isn’t security.
(Kisses aren’t contracts and presents aren’t promises.)

After awhile you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes open, with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.
And you learn to build your roads on today because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain and the inevitable has a way of crumbling in mid-flight.

After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you stand too long in one place.

So, you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone else to bring you flowers.
And you learn you really can endure, that you really do have worth.
You learn that with every good-bye comes the dawn.”

Visual Journaling at The Shift Studio


We had a wonderful “playshop” on Tuesday at The Shift Studio. We began by setting an intention for the session and asking a question that we wanted our journals to respond to.


We started with large sheets of brown kraft paper, which we filled with color, texture, collage, text, and images corresponding to our questions.


We tore our kraft paper down to size, and bound them together to create a unique visual journal. We spent some time with our journals, writing and processing any answers we received. We then wrote a letter to ourselves to help us remember any insights that came to us during the session.


I’m so proud of my students! Thank you all for your trust and vulnerability as you shared about your experiences today.

Here’s what some students had to say after the workshop:

  • “Thank you for a super workshop.  I had a wonderful time, feel great about taking the next step and excited about the possibilities that are opening up.”
  • “The tone you set was so conducive to safety and exploring and enjoying.”
  • “Your instruction and pacing for the activity were just right, gave precisely the guidance I needed.”
  • “I so enjoyed the Journaling class yesterday and Kara was fantastic. So easy to be with, listen to and she is caring and knows her work. I found I could do something for me and enjoy the quiet atmosphere as well. Thank you for providing this opportunity.”
  • “I appreciate the masterful job you did with planning and preparation.  The whole workshop gave such a sense of being carefully designed and thoughtfully set up — with delightful materials:  art supplies bountiful but not overwhelming, decorated and encouraging individual packets of goodies…  It seems you thought of everything, right down to that tiny envelope for our message to ourself.  It was all so inviting and pleasing.”

My ICAD Progress

So, today is day four of the ICAD challenge. For those who don’t follow me on Facebook, ICAD stands for Index-Card-A-Day, and it’s a free daily art challenge hosted by Daisy Yellow, an artist/blogger from Daisy Yellow Art. There are weekly themes and daily prompts, but she reassures you that it’s okay not to follow any of them. The theme for this week is drawing and doodling. Here’s what I’ve got going on so far…


#1. The theme was “Chevron”.


“Carnival” was the theme for day #2.


On day #3, I did my own thing.

Day #4 is still in the works. You can see my new cards daily on Instagram, along with other fun goodies. Doesn’t this look like fun? I give myself no more than ten minutes per card, and it’s a great way to let a little art into each day. Join me and the other 1.7 thousand people engaging in creative play!  Info and instructions are available here.